CBS Sacramento

How Will Social Media Influence The 2018 Elections?

March 13, 2018

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — President Donald Trump has said Facebook and Twitter may have helped him win the presidency, but with the spread of fake news online, how effective will social media be in this upcoming election?

“Many of my students get their news now from social media from Facebook and Twitter,” said Andy Jones.

UC Davis Journalism Professor Andy Jones says social media’s spread of fake news may be endangering democracy. But studies show 98 percent of teens are on it.

“Although they’ve become somewhat more skeptical of such stories, they’re also experts at using social media to accomplish other goals, most of them social,” he said.

That online activism may also be motivating candidates to spend more money and energy on digital ads and engagement.

“They can speak directly to the voters,” said political strategist Steven Maviglio.

Maviglio says California’s Secretary of State is a good example, recently announcing a partnership with the app Nextdoor to get out the vote.

“Candidates are often sold like soap detergent and you have to filter through what the truth is, and check out the claims and trust and verify everything you see,” he said.

But California lawmakers say the burden doesn’t just fall on the consumer.

“The question are you a machine or are you human?” said state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles).

Hertzberg’s bill seeks to expose social media robots, including fake Russia-linked Twitter accounts used to manipulate the 2016 election. His proposal requires profiles to be labeled, like his own automated @bot_hertzberg Twitter page.

“We think that’s a very big step in trying to get proper information because no one could have anticipated that machines are out there influencing elections like this,” said Hertzberg.

Hertzberg says machines shouldn’t have the right to free speech. But that first amendment debate is already gaining steam, on social media.

“Any social media company, that would seek to restrict that, would immediately find challenges all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Jones.

The issue is expected to come up at the bot bill’s first hearing, next month.

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